Rewarding experience in Haiti
Bay Roberts physiotherapist travels with Team Broken Earth
Flipping through the pages of a beige photo album from her recent trip to Haiti as a part of Team Broken Earth, Bay Roberts physiotherapist Emily Dawe stops to point out a particular picture.
It is a picture of Dawe, and a smiling Haitian boy. He was just re-learning to walk and the young woman was helping with the process.
The boy’s smile was a mile wide as he moved his legs for what must’ve felt like the first time. But, if you notice the other pictures in the album, there is a similarity.
Smiles. A lot of them, despite horrific circumstances.
The people of Port-au-Prince and the rest of Haiti are known for their resilience and pain tolerance. It’s something that struck Dawe during her weeklong stay in the country.
“It’s a good thing,” she said. “The amount of pain they could tolerate and be OK with was incredible. People would come in with an injury that you would expect them to be passed out from.”
Perhaps the Haitian people have an otherworldly will to survive, but Dawe wasn’t sure. There are sure to be a number of factors that go into their heightened pain tolerance, chief amongst those a will to survive a 7.0 magnitude earthquake and the ensuing chaos.
“Even post-operation patients here that would require a strong pain killer, they would just get up and go,” said Dawe.
Dawe was making her first trip with Broken Earth. Their
website describes them as “volunteer task force composed of physicians, nurses, and physiotherapists from across Canada committed to delivering and improving healthcare in Haiti.”
They work with health professionals on the ground in hopes of delivering the right care and helping to develop the best practices.
Dawe was in Haiti from March 21-28. Working every day of the week, she hit the ground running from the start, assisting the physiotherapist where she could and performing other duties as they arose.
“I spent a lot of my time in the pediatric unit and the spinal cord unit,” said Dawe. “Those were the places I could have the most intervention and effect. I did whatever I thought they needed.”
From the moment she set foot at the hospital, it was non-stop from sun up to sun down.
“Really, you’re running on adrenaline for the first three days,” said Dawe. “Myself and the radiologist were pretty much the only ones who didn’t have shifts. So, I would get up anywhere between six and seven in the morning, get ready and head to the units. The physio would come in around nine, so I’d have two hours of work done before he got in.
“Then we’d usually work the until 3:30 or 4. Then, I would clew up anything else Broken Earth wise.”
One thing Dawe said that will stick with her is the amount of involvement families have when their loved one is at the hospital. She described family members who chip in wherever they can to help nurses, doctors and physiotherapists.
“The families took total control of their washing, dressing, you know,” she said. “There are no cafeterias in the hospital, so the families brought in all of their meals to them. They took complete care of them.
“Even for me trying to get someone moving and get them out of bed, the families would step in.”
The trip had such an effect on her that Dawe said she would love to make another trip to Haiti or even Nepal should the opportunity arise. She called the work rewarding and it reminded her of why she chose the career path she did.
“This is why I wanted to become a physio. To do this sort of thing,” she said. “It reminds you of why you started.”
Bay Roberts physiotherapist Emily Dawe (right) recently spent a week in Haiti as a part of Team Broken Earth.